The Little Man in the Map is a book written by Andrew Martonyi to help children memorize the 50 states. It is published by Schoolside Press and is sold at their website for $19.95. It is also available at Amazon.com. It is a top-quality, hard-back book with glossy full-color pictures and rhyming text. The premise of the book is that in looking at the shapes of the states, beginning at Minnesota and going straight down to Louisiana, you can imagine the profile of a man. Minnesota is the hat, Iowa is the face, Missouri is his shirt, Arkansas is his pants and Louisiana is, of course, his boot. Utilizing this concept, the author then uses the shapes of other states to imagine different items that relate to the Man in the Map (MIM). For example, New York is pictured as a flashlight shining on New England and Texas is a chair for MIM.
I have never seen a geography book like this one. I must confess that I cannot adequately evaluate this book’s capability to teach the states because all my school-aged children (and myself) already know all the states. This book might help a student learn their states by making a more memorable mental picture of the U.S. map, or perhaps by catching a student’s interest who does not enjoy working with simple maps. My 6 year-old mentioned to me that New York was the flashlight several weeks after reading the book, so the story is memorable. However, while this book might help with learning the shapes and locations of the 50 states, it doesn’t seem it would be as helpful in learning the names of the states. The pictures are solely related to what the shape of the state looks like, and have no relation to the actual name of the state. Of course the names of the states are included in the text, so the names could be learned by repeated reading of the book. There are also several useful mnemonic devices for remembering the locations of some of the more confusing states. One of these is “UCAN” standing for Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.
There is a teacher’s guide that will be available soon at Schoolside Press. While written for a classroom teacher, the activities are easily adaptable for home schools. Using the supplemental activities also might aid in teaching the name of each state along with its shape. In addition to the book there is also a wall-map available. Be sure not to miss Mr. Martonyi’s next book about the state capitals!